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Journal/Book Title

PATS Staff Paper No. 3

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Recent opinion polls suggest that farmland preservation is one of the most widely shared goals for local land use planning in Wisconsin. Although the state has long been a leader in the use of tax and zoning policy tools to protect agricultural lands from residential or commercial development, continued high rates of farmland loss have cast doubt on their effectiveness. This paper critically examines statistical evidence for the effectiveness of farmland tax credit and exclusive agricultural zoning policies in Wisconsin. Using data collected at the township level (the local unit of land use decision-making in most counties), and controlling for the influence of other factors, the findings suggest that tax credits and zoning have had very limited success at mediating spatial patterns of farmland loss. Evidence from case studies of town government decision-making is then used to help explain why traditional land use policies have been unimpressive. Among the findings is the fact that local communities often fail to embrace or rigorously enforce land use plans or zoning districts.